Saturday, March 21, 2009

Acting White: Talking Like A White Girl

For the twelve years my daughter has been in school, black girls have accused her of talking like a white girl. I take full responsibility for her plight, because during the same time her mother and I have insisted that she speak our language properly. Just two days ago my 85 year old mother reminded me that our house was the same, and how the First Lady’s recent admission, of her own childhood label of ‘talking like a white girl’, had touched her aging heart.

Many years ago, while living in Boston, Michele Obama’s point of importance was made clear by Caribbean immigrant black women armed with no formal skills, other than a command of English, who were able gain job opportunities in child care not available to equally qualified black-English speaking women. Simply put, responsible employers and parents of any color know that the first cut to be made toward a bright future is the ability to communicate well, and this training begins early.

Now both my kids know street-slang too, as did I, and this is okay as long as they use it appropriately. I call this cultural bilingualism. They need to be comfortable with different people. But let’s not be confused that the informal has any rightful claim on the formal. In 1996, the Oakland Unified School District wanted to make black-English, Ebonics, an acceptable standard of communication, but thankfully this nonsense was scuttled from the left, the right, and everywhere in between. Bad idea.

So I commend the First Lady on stepping up on this issue of language. Like it or not, women have always been (and always will be) at the centerpiece of our behaviors and especially those of the men who seek their attention. While she is at it, Michele could definitely push black women on taking better care of their physical selves as well, rather than attempting to recalibrate healthiness and attractiveness across a 50% obesity rate, black men and boys included. Also, I can't wait until Mrs. Obama starts clueing women in on attracting, focusing, and guiding men to heights.

James C. Collier

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7 comments:

GoldenAh said...

>>Michele could definitely push black women on taking better care of their physical selves as well, rather than attempting to recalibrate healthiness and attractiveness across a 50% obesity rate...


I agree with this point.


>>Also, I can't wait until Mrs. Obama starts clueing women in on attracting, focusing, and guiding men to heights.


Men are like horses. They can be brought to the river, but whether they want to drink the water of self-improvement is a non-starter.

Women already waste a lot of time trying to reform, change, and "fix" men. They just need to adjust their standards upwards.

However, your point about black women taking care of their health is extremely valid. The sad part is that this issue relates to hair: exercise requires sweating. A relaxed style has higher priority than a good hour of getting wet.

Alrighty then, I'll say no more....

American Black Chick in London said...

Wonderful post! I also grew up in a household where my parents insisted I speak grammatically correct English...which was great when I became an adult and started job hunting, but horrible when I was a kid since kids at school and extended family members teased me for "talking like a white girl." Oddly, my mother went through the same thing when she was growing up. It irks me when the idea of using proper English is somehow connected to being white and using slang automatically makes one "authentically black."

mehugtree said...

Great post, James. And in fact as a long time reader, these are the kind of posts I expected to see more of: why is "_________" connected to being white and doing "_______" connected to authentically black. How did it happen, is there basis in it, and how to fix/promote it.

I mention the fix/promote it because there is stuff out there that is more a white trait that SHOULD be avoided. You know, like greed or something.

So in this "white girl speech" example, how can we promote the idea that speaking "properly" can and will help people succeed? Hopefully Michelle Obama can help!

thanks!

Anonymous said...

"Women already waste a lot of time trying to reform, change, and "fix" men. They just need to adjust their standards upwards."

That IS the only effective way to fix men. If women are willing to have sex with abusive, unemployed, deadbeat criminals then there is really nothing for men to aspire to. Because of womens' right to work, and the emergence of the welfare state, the traditional impulse for women to seek a provider has been extinguished.

"there is stuff out there that is more a white trait that SHOULD be avoided. You know, like greed or something."

People of all colors and creeds across the ages have gone to great lengths to acquire more than they need to survive. It's just that "white" Europeans have historically been better at it.

MuscleDaddy said...

I saw the video of Michelle Obama telling the story of "You Talk Like a White Girl".

My Ex got that a lot - mostly because, having come from another country (Panama) when she learned English, it was the Queen's English - drove the local black women nuts.

But I have to say - as I listened to the First Lady relate this story, the first thing that came to mind was: "So, when did she stop?"

Or didn't she - which would make what we're hearing now just a dishonest affectation?

No stranger to regional vernacular myself, either is just as good as the other as far as I'm concerned, but which was-or-is the real Michelle Obama, and why can't she seem to decide and just be that?

- MuscleDaddy

Xenia said...

I was recently told by a biracial man that I know that I talk like a white girl. I immediately corrected him by saying that I do not talk like a white girl, but instead a black girl who speaks english properly. Thank goodness he had the sense to agree and correct his initial statement to me.

As has already been written here, it really irks me too when people associate speaking english correctly as only a white thing.
I am so glad the attempts years ago to make ebonics a valid way of speaking failed. That was one of the most horrible ideas ever.

I am also from Panama and my parents were no joke when it came to speaking and writing english properly.

As far as obesity and attractiveness goes, I find it to be widespread among all races in America. This has become a drive up for fast food or take out chinese food society. I just do not see obesity as a black woman thing.

Not Selfhating said...

Nobody should be talking (YES WHITE) unless they are white!! Duh, mf's. Isn't English the Colonizers language??!!?! Helloooooooooo
Was English Black People, Brown People, Red People and every other Indigenous person Language????? Hell the uck NO OK? Stop Bullshhhhing. If you are BLACK or a Person of Color and talk WHITE/ANGLO/ Assimilating you look as stupid as a wigger (whitey acting something there not). @Xenia, "a black girl who speaks her slave masters language properly"?! Black please. You know you dont love your black asss trying to be the furthest from it. Being black isn't being "ghetto" or saying YO (we know NY got YO on lock) Being Black is about loving everything your opposite isn't. People of color so worried about english and grammar when they don't know if they were really brought here in a ship, shackled or WHAT! @to anonymous with their bullshhhhhit talking about whites are just better at it - Yeah, colonizing just about every part of the continent with weapons of mass destruction is better. yeah dude, totally dude!!! (being sarcastic af). Stfu better be anonymous I loveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee being black. I get light directly from the sun and don't DIE FROM IT!!! LOL